Tracking Story Submissions

Mechanical Fortune Teller at Pike Place Market

One of the problems with submissions is the guesswork involved - there is no way to predict what market will love a particular story.

Part of today is going to be spent sorting through my spreadsheet of what stories are out where and getting stuff out. That’s one of the really tedious things about being a writer – all the paperwork.

So how do I track submissions and figure out where to send them?

I have an Excel spreadsheet. One page has short stories that are circulating, a second does the same with flash pieces, a third tracks sold stories, a fourth audio reprints, and a fifth foreign reprints. When a rejection comes in, I mark the story on the sheet as freed up and put it in bold red. Once it’s been submitted, I switch the color to blue. That lets me look over the sheet and get an idea of what needs to go out. Right now it’s looking pretty red, so I’ve compiled a list of five flash pieces and ten short stories that need to go out, making a note of the word count.

After that I usually go to a market list, usually or and look. I have some markets that stories always go through, but once they’ve been through those, it becomes a matter of finding the right place. I’ll look to see what anthologies are open first and see if I’ve got anything that fits into a particular theme.

Another system that can be used to track submissions is the excellent Story

Before I submit anywhere, I read their guidelines and do my best to read an issue or two (if they’re free online fiction, I don’t think there’s any excuse for not doing a little research there.)

Things that up a market’s attractiveness:

  • Good pay – I make my money through writing and editing, so this is a big factor to me.
  • Fast response time – When sending via snail mail, for instance, that adds at least a couple of weeks to the response time. A good resource for checking how fast they’re responding is the Black Hole.
  • Circulation – Do people read the magazine? Is it getting discussed/reviewed? Are many year’s bests coming from its pages?
  • Good editor – A good editor is a joy to work with.

Audio reprints and foreign markets are usually separate passes, since I’m working with different lists there – the best of the stuff that’s been published. I absolutely would be lost in looking at the latter if I didn’t have Douglas Smith’s Foreign Market list. I’ve been bad about audio reprints and need to get more of those circulating, so that will probably come after this pass.

Enjoy this writing advice and want more like it? Check out the classes Cat gives via the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which offers both on-demand and live online writing classes for fantasy and science fiction writers from Cat and other authors, including Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and other talents! All classes include three free slots.

Perefer to opt for weekly interaction, advice, opportunities to ask questions, and access to the Chez Rambo Discord community and critique group? Check out Cat’s Patreon. Or sample her writing here.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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